May 5 – 22 Jessica Thalmann & Ryan Van Der Hout: “SURFACE TENSION”
Surface Tension is an exhibition of recent photographic works by emerging Canadian artists Jessica Thalmann and Ryan Van Der Hout. The exhibition joins two bodies of work from photo-based artists who unravel conventional understandings of photographic images and their material implications. Both artists use archival documents to rethink the meaning of identity, history, memory, and loss by simultaneously defacing and exalting filmic and photographic objects. While Van Der Hout’s painterly treatment activates the surface in very different ways than Thalmann’s sculptural morphologies, both bodies of work remain linked by the thematic significance of local history.
Thalmann’s series “Utopos” attempts to understand the relationship between Brutalist architecture (with its predominance in post-secondary educational institutions in Canada and especially Toronto) and traumatic histories involving protest, shootings and violence. The project is surprisingly personal in nature, and began by focusing on a shooting that occurred in 1992 at Concordia University where her uncle, Professor Phoivos Ziogas, was killed. To work through the emotional implications of his death and its reverberations throughout the family, the images of cold monolithic Brutalist buildings become distorted, organic and malleable. Photographs are folded in a triangle tessellation pattern creating sculptural reliefs and organic forms that protrude off the wall and go beyond the flat surface of a traditional photograph.
Van Der Hout’s body of work entitled “Creative Destruction” explores ideas of modernization, progress, and loss by etching into the surface of photographs from the Toronto archives. Working with images from 1890-1916, a period of Toronto’s history representing rapid modernization, Van Der Hout physically strips away portions of the chemical emulsion to create marks that veil, alter, or erase the past. Stripping the paper is a process of creation and destruction: it reveals untapped chemicals in the paper itself, while simultaneously altering it permanently.
Both artists mine Toronto’s archives and architectural landscape to understand the transformations of a city over a period of one hundred years. For both artists, photographs function much like a time machine, fixing the light from a distant moment with chemicals and paper. Here, the complex relationship between memory and the archive becomes prevalent as seemingly precious photographs are folded, torn, scrapped, rubbed and cut. Ultimately, dusty and looming photographic monuments are now reshaped into living breathing images by erasing and preserving a past half remembered.
Jessica Thalmann is an artist, curator and writer currently based in Toronto and New York City. She has received a Master of Fine Arts in Advanced Photographic Studies from ICP-Bard College and a BFA in Visual Arts from York University. She has worked at the Doris McCarthy Gallery, Toronto International Film Festival, C Magazine, the Art Gallery of York University and Yossi Milo Gallery.
She has shown at various venues in Toronto, Vancouver and New York City including the Art Gallery of Mississauga, Flash Forward 2010, Whippersnapper Gallery, Nuit Blanche, the Artist Project, VIVO Media Arts Center, the International Centre of Photography, Photoville, the Camera Club of New York and Printed Matter’s New York Art Book Fair.
Ryan Van Der Hout is a photo-based artist working in Toronto. His work explores photographic materials and experimental processes. Ryan has an ongoing documentary project focused on artistic process and studio space.
Ryan’s work has been exhibited across Canada, the U.K. and in New York and is held in both private and public collections. He’s a graduate of Ryerson’s photography program.